A safer way

What if I told you that there is a known way to make Snoqualmie Valley safer and we are not using it? Instead, we keep using the older, more dangerous method. Why, you might ask? Simple. The modern safer way is not initially supported by the general population. Not because it doesn't work, costs more, is unproved, or is impractical, but because it is unfamiliar to us and we have not been informed.

Modern roundabouts are significantly safer than outdated dangerous traffic lights. How do we know? The facts are in numerous, current, significant studies by universities, national and international organizations including the AAA, the Institute for Highway Safety and our own Washington State Department of Transportation. They show conclusively that when existing traffic lights are replaced by modern roundabouts, all accidents decrease by anywhere from 37-50 percent, injury accidents by 50-75 percent and deaths by 90-96 percent.

Common sense tells us this is true even if they are a bit unfamiliar. Serious traffic signal accidents are usually at higher speeds: rear ends, T-bones or head-on collisions. They are often caused by errors in multiple decision-making, numerous needs for our visual attention and, sadly enough, trying to beat the light. Roundabout accidents are low speed, angled, merge related crashes of lesser consequence. Apparently, there are some 56 ways to have an accident at a stoplight; only 16 in a modern roundabout.

"Red light running factors into more than 800 deaths annually; more than half of those who die in traffic fatalities are hit by red light violators," according to the Institute for Highway Safety. "Nationwide, fatal crashes at traffic signals increased 18 percent, more than three times the rate of increase for all other fatal crashes."

US News stated that Washington state had 62 fatal crashes from red light running. Most of damage is done by drivers exceeding the 15-20 mph norms in roundabouts was to curbs, their own wheels and themselves.

Tourist towns like Bend, Ore., and Vail, Colo., have embraced them with success for over a decade. Europe is converting their old traffic circles to modern roundabouts at the rate of over 1,000 per year. Washington state already has over 60 with another 50 planned. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/roundabouts for more information.

Many citizens are initially against roundabouts because they are new. Yes, but they are also simply safer, by a lot. Slower speeds through intersections are better for cars, children, bicycles and pets.

It is time for us, the Valley's drivers, to give up a little comfort for a lot of safety. It is time to let the members of the North Bend City Council, the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce and the editor of this paper know that we are requesting a modern roundabout in as many intersections as possible, as soon as possible throughout our Valley.

Jack Webber


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